Passivhaus, schools and CIBSE TM57

Juraj Mikurcik (@JurajMikurcik), an architect at Architype's rural studio asked via Twitter why Passivhaus was not featured in the new CIBSE publication TM57: Integrated school design. Committee chairman Prof Dejan Mumovic, Deputy Director of UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, explains the reasoning.

Firstly, it should be stressed that the purpose of a CIBSE Technical Memorandum (TM) is to provide guidance on good practice for use by CIBSE members and others in the supply chain and by clients. A TM should provide guidance that can be widely applied using current technology.

There are impressive Passivhaus school projects –reflected in the CIBSE Building Performance Award won by Architype in 2013 for Bushbury Hill Primary School or articles in CIBSE Journal - but the numbers are limited and so there is currently a limited pool of evidence and of skilled and experienced people to deliver them. The view of the Committee for TM57 was that it would be premature for CIBSE to include them in guidance intended for wide use at this point. Of course this will be reviewed when future editions of the publication are produced.

Secondly, TM57 is on integrated school design, which presents a consensus on design hierarchy in a wide range of performance characteristics (acoustics, lighting, indoor air quality, thermal comfort and energy) which affect learning processes and the students’ cognitive performance. Our feeling was that most 'passive house' articles focus on energy performance, but we were keen not to focus on energy targets at the expense of other environmental factors (such as indoor air quality) and learning outcomes.

TM57 alone will not guarantee good school design. A checklist of criteria does not constitute successful design. School designers must also make the effort to study and share exemplar cases. TM57 provides both a chapter on Methods for post occupancy evaluation in schools and a detailed integrated case study; we should call for transparency of POE data which would allow us to evaluate performance of buildings more holistically.

Discussions such as this, and the sharing of information, knowledge and experience, are vital to improving building performance in schools, and I would welcome any further feedback in the comments section of this blog.

TM57 Integrated school design - cover


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